Author highlights African-American community in Florida in new book

MIAMI (WSVN) - A South Florida author is speaking with 7News about his focus in his latest book on the African-American community and their triumphs and tragedies.

Dr. Marvin Dunn, who is an author and retired Florida International University professor, believes that many African-Americans have been forgotten in the State of Florida. “It was the culmination of decades of frustration, anger, police problems, poverty,” Dunn said.

Dunn isn’t talking about Ferguson or Baltimore — although he could be. The retired psychology professor is referring to Miami in 1980 and the McDuffie Riots that killed 18 people.

“I give talks around town, and I am shocked at the number of people around town who never heard the name McDuffie,” Dunn said.

Arthur McDuffie, an insurance salesman, was beaten to death by four Miami-Dade Police officers. When the officers were later acquitted, outrage boiled out onto the streets of Liberty City and Brownsville.

Those violent three days, which are now part of the story of African-Americans in Florida, is chronicled in Dunn’s new book, “A History of Florida: Through Black Eyes.”

“I wanted to make sure that part of history is recorded,” Dunn said.

The modern-day violence is only part of the story, and Dunn says African-Americans in Florida have largely been forgotten by history. “Black people are virtually invisible in Florida history. We are primarily portrayed only as common laborers or domestics,” he said.

The book, Dunn said, begins with blacks who accompanied Ponce De Leon to Florida and traces the Civil War, reconstruction and Civil Rights eras, marking the triumphs and tragedies in between.

“I visited every place in Florida where there was a major lynching,” Dunn said. “I visited the graves of victims. I talked to a lot of people in their 90s who remembered these things, who had personal involvement in some of these events.”

Now Dunn is hoping all the information he gathered will allow him to provide a more complete portrait of Florida’s history. “This book is not meant to foment hatred or anger or guilt,” he said, “but simply to tell stories that should’ve been told and to have people appreciate the lessons we can learn, to not have those tragedies repeated.”

If McDuffie were still alive today, he would have been 70 years old.

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